Today’s Conservative party was born of an arranged marriage in 2004 of the Reform Party and the Progressive Conservatives, both equally motivated to stop losing. Crucially, in that union, the word progressive was dropped, and strong Reform DNA imprinted itself on culture and policy. Its lovechild, Stephen Harper, knew how to make it work at the time.
But almost 16 years later, the electorate has changed. If the party is to truly put the “progressive” back in its step, it must first look deeply, existentially inside itself and answer the question, “What does it mean to be conservative in 2020?”
For some, the answer will be as simple as being winners, and moving in whichever direction it takes to get there. But as we have seen in two elections in the past eight weeks, one cannot ignore the strength and weight of party orthodoxy. It was the faction to which Scheer was beholden in the Canadian federal campaign. It was the magnet that pulled Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn into an unwinnable position in the United Kingdom this week.
As the CPC moves forward, it will have to find a way to keep the orthodoxy on side, while becoming more electable. At best, it will be a house rejuvenated. At worst, it will fracture. Scheer’s departure does little to solve the bigger, more foundational conundrum.